Longtime best friends Maggie Aynsley and Kasha Mitton have been tightly knitted for most of their lives since their mothers also shared an equally strong bond. Through the triumphs, tragedies, cross-country moves, and building their own families, Maggie and Kasha were inspired to give back to their respective communities. The MASH Movement is a combination of their names and stands for Movement, Awareness, Service, and Health.
Maggie is an elementary school teacher and Kasha is a nurse, so their careers require them to exercise their empathy and compassion daily. Both women have experienced losses in their lives that motivate them to be in service to themselves, their families, and the collective. Kasha’s young son, Jude, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. A rare, fatal disease that affects young boys, Duchenne hinders the body’s ability to develop strong muscles. As a mother and aunt to young Jude, this is an extraordinarily heavy diagnosis for Kasha and Maggie’s families. Therefore, the two women are always conscious of the “invisible backpack” people carry with them.
“For us, it is about continuing to check the pieces in the invisible backpack and examining whether it’s good or bad. It’s about leaning into whatever is there and being vulnerable enough to see it. Knowing it is okay”. Kasha explains, “Maggie and I talk about MASH being a way of living. Movement is not just about physical movement but knowing when you are stuck in life. That requires unzipping and asking, “What am I carrying?”, then moving into what matters most”.
British Columbia is considered home to both Kasha and Maggie. With Maggie currently living in Oakville, Ontario, the Mash Movement has grounds to spread the message of hope and love across the country. Maggie is committed to sharing her stories with her yoga community. “What perpetuates the ability to consider unzipping is knowing that sharing my story of the Mitton Family and stories of my loss, I’ve created this ripple and community here in Oakville, Burlington, and Toronto. By being vulnerable in my yoga teaching has allowed me to match with the community here”.
While most people find the unzipping of their invisible backpacks to be daunting, it is necessary for processing grief and connecting with others. When asked how she radiates love in the face of adversity, Kasha shares her wisdom. “For me, it understands the common thread of humanity that everyone suffers. So, when we can unzip and understand that everyone has those pieces in their backpack. We were able to connect our adversity and sorrow to those of others. That is what we call the invisible string that weaves the tapestry of our humanity”.
No two people experience adversity in the same way or have the same triggers. However, the mere act of sharing one’s truth creates a safe space for others to do so as well. Maggie explains, “In our state of unzipping, it is not that we’re going to meet people in their adversity, but in our willingness to share our adversities, I think it gives people comfortability to share their own. Creating that safe space doesn’t mean we’re going to understand everyone else’s pain, but it gives us the ability to meet people where they’re at”.
The MASH Movement is partnered with Jesse’s Journey, a non-profit organization created by John and Sherene Davidson in honour of their son Jesse. In 1995, John made it his mission to push Jesse across Ontario in his wheelchair to raise awareness for Duchenne. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Jesse’s Journey, the MASH Movement hosted 25 Days to Live in the MOVEment in September 2020.
For $25, participants received access to live and pre-recorded yoga routines, fitness classes, meditations, and health and motivational talks. Maggie and Kasha were able to rally 45 wellness leaders worldwide to support this initiative and share their talents through an online platform. This humbled the two women in their ability to expand their mission and their vision.
Maggie reflects on this pivotal event for the MASH, “that was the moment we realized there is hope in global communities coming together and rallying. There was this new appreciation for the virtual platform where we can connect. We were able to tell the story of the MASH movement from a whole other perspective”. Through their commitment to storytelling and giving back to the collective, Maggie and Kasha’s message expanded their community to a global level. “By not physically being with one another, we were able to do this together. There is hope in this sense of people telling their stories”.
On Mother’s Day of this year, the MASH Movement will be releasing their first book, MomBabes Motherhood Anthology. It is intended to be an anthology on motherhood, but the themes of the stories are universal. Kasha took this opportunity to share her and Maggie’s stories and other women as well. “We’ve connected with 22 people in total, and each chapter is dedicated to a particular part of their story. For my chapter, I’m focusing on the themes of grief, loss, love, and hope. It is really about the journey with my son and my mother’s loss at an early age.
I try to live through the legacy she left behind and how it is connected to the work of advocacy for my son”. For Maggie, moving from B.C. to Ontario was a significant adjustment for her to be away from family and friends. However, grounding herself in her service work has allowed her to find a new sense of purpose in a new home. “I’ve allowed my kids to unzip their backpacks in a new place that I never anticipated calling home. It’s about my journey of finding home in two different places. The necessity around connection and being of service to others is a part of my work in living the MASH”.
Through their experiences, Maggie and Kasha found purpose in their adversity and are motivated to service themselves and others. Storytelling and vulnerability are at the core of their work because it leads to showing others compassion and empathy. Kasha explains, “Although our circumstances are different, we still share those common human emotions of anger, grief, frustration, etc.
That is why storytelling is so important. My work as a nurse and through MASH is only as good as my ability to understand their story”. In the face of extraordinary challenges, Maggie is conscious of pausing and reflecting. “Anytime something has been hard, it has allowed me to lean into stillness and the part of the MASH of being aware. It brings me perspective on how I can be of service, whether it is to myself or other people”.
For more information on Maggie and Kasha’s initiatives, visit:
For more information on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and ways to get involved, visit https://www.jessesjourney.com/about-duchenne/what-is-duchenne/